BENDIGO voters took the opportunity to vote as soon as two polling booths in the city opened for early voting on Monday.
By last night, more than 7000 people in the seats of Bendigo East and Bendigo West had voted but candidates still had over a week of campaigning until election day on November 24.
Heightened campaign activity over two weeks brought out lobby groups including the Victorian Council of Social Service and the Rural Doctors Association of Victoria to call for commitments from candidates to their respective causes.
For VCOSS member organisations in Bendigo, including ARC Justice, Bendigo Community Health Services and Women’s Health Loddon Mallee, the call was to increase funding to the community sector.
“We are not born equal and many of these inequities compound over time,” BCHS chief executive Kim Sykes said.
“Access to a broad range of services provided by the community sector is critical to reducing disadvantage and achieving fairer outcomes for most of our most vulnerable.”
It also attracted party leaders including Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie, Greens Australia leader Richard Di Natale and Labor treasurer Chris Bowen who spruiked funding for preschool for all three and four year olds by 2021.
Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters pointed out the commitment, which would also include funding to states to increase preschool places and train more educators, was a partnership between federal and state Labor and therefore contingent on the incumbent being returned in Victoria and the federal party winning its next election.
“We know that investment in our youngest Australians pays off all through their education, all through their life, it pays off for them, it pays off for the country,” Mr Bowen said.
“There are 4500 three and four year olds in Bendigo who will benefit from Labor’s announcement.”
Early voting was tracking at about 1000 votes per day this week at the McIvor Road office that is the rented polling booth taking pre-poll votes for the Bendigo East electorate.
The number was slightly less than at the Victorian Electoral Commission office in High Street, Golden Square where Bendigo West voters can vote.
Tracking at the same rate, early polling should account for about 25 per cent of total vote but it is expected more people will visit booths in the second half of next week leading up to November 24.
The Victorian Electoral Commission has forecast the proportion of early voters could be as high as 50 per cent in some electorates.